Hong Kong’s annual Policy Address ritual is somewhat less mind-numbing than usual, taking place at a time when even officials are implicitly acknowledging that the one-time Pearl of the Orient is spiraling down the vortex to Perpetual Doo-Doo Land. Not that they’re going to do much about it.
For a quick summary, a former District Council covers several key features…
…local transport infrastructure plans? A disaster … more irrelevant paths to the outskirts of urban areas.
Full reports at HKFP. I’ll skip the stuff on housing – basically more plans to increase supply without addressing the big land-use policy mess, while seizing excuses to spend on infrastructure.
Most media stories focus on measures to attract (ie, reverse the outflow of) ‘talent’ (ie people). Since we can’t/won’t make the city a better place for everyone to live in, the emphasis is on targeting highly qualified workers in specific trendy-sounding industries by offering visa-free entry and even homes and subsidies in hub-zones. Are international tech professionals earning US$318,000 a year going to be lured by handouts? Or will they consider such desperate-sounding initiatives insulting?
The ideas don’t even make much sense. The plan to refund newcomers’ property stamp duty is simply an attempt to prop up real-estate prices. Let’s attract more people by making housing more expensive!
Reuters identifies scrapping dumb Covid policies as the obvious solution to the brain drain…
…Hong Kong’s mid-year population dipped 1.6% to 7.29 million – the steepest year-on-year drop on record. In contrast, rival banking and investment centre Singapore notched up a 3.4% increase over the same period.
…Hong Kongers are still subject to a myriad of rules that even health experts deem to be ineffective. That includes having to “self-monitor” for three days on arrival – the so-called “0+3” inbound travel arrangement – arbitrary caps of 12 people per table in a restaurant, six in a bar, 240 attendees in a banquet, and 30 in a tour group; indoor and outdoor mask mandates; enforced isolation for positive cases; and mandatory testing to go to schools, bars and other places.
(The government is counting on its forthcoming ‘financial summit’ for global bankers as a way to ‘prove’ Hong Kong is back. The word is that attendees will all be put in the Four Seasons hotel, and will still have to quarantine if they test positive. Unless – and I wish I could make up stuff this crazy – they have a private jet, in which case they can fly straight back to the disease-ridden international financial hub whence they came. With special transport arrangements to the airport.)
But, Reuters reminds us, it’s not just about replacing expats…
The city’s labour force is shrinking, with the 20- to 24-year-old cohort plunging an alarming 15% in the second quarter from a year earlier.
Which brings us to the other main theme of the Policy Address – relentless patriotic NatSec integration. A HK$60 million plan to strengthen national identity among kindergarten kids, tougher laws against insulting the flag, and what looks like the abolition of District Councils as the democratically elected local bodies we once knew. Plus the Article 23 NatSec law to increase penalties for sedition-type thought crimes, and yet more urging that we abandon the whole concept of ‘Hong Kong’ and embrace ‘Greater Bay Area’.
The UK gives residency rights to Hongkongers born after 1997.